"I have never had sex with Ville Valo but he is very dear to me!" That is something any HIM fan girl or guy could have said. In Helsinki with the new years-festival Helldone, the declaration of love to Ville Valo is endless and comes in all the shapes.
Directly after my arrival to the hotel on the evening of the 28 (of December) I sat down in the hotel lobby with Ville Valo. He seems totally unaware that almost everyone around us are HIM fans. He does not even notice the fact that the bartender sneaks one of HIM's songs into the loungemix. To spontaneously expose an artist to his own music is a crime agains the music worlds unwritten rules. "I don't bother, I just don't listen and focus on the conversation with my buddies," Ville explains after I made him notice the music playing. "We create music for people to listen to it wherever they are. If I am at my local pub and some drunk youths choose one of my songs from the jukebox I sometimes think 'why must you play that one and be such an ass' but if I don?t like it, it's not any harder to leave the place nad move on."
It is with suprise how Finlands greatest rockstar reacts when fans carefully approach him, and that on a hotel that lies not even 100 meters from the club where his own festival arranges. A couple of norwegians ask for his autograph and one of them even has the stomach to ask Ville if he knowes any good tattooer that can immortalize the signature. Of course Ville does what anybody in this situation would do - gives them a troublesome "oh no now I have got a couple of stalkers on my neck" look and resolutely shakes his head. The last is a lie. Ville takes his mobile phone and calls the tattooer that has done all his tattoos and makes sure that the norwegians get an appointmeant at the tattoer two days later. Ville feels less than a rockstar and more than "Ville Valo the concierge that sees to all your needs." The fans are of course thrilled!
My first meeting with Ville Valo took place in February 2003 when "Love Metal" was about to be relesed I was very impressed, not to say taken, of his treatment of his admires, an artist that devotes that much time and care to everyone and then you should have in mind that Ville is an icon in a band that makes HANOI ROCKS, NIGHTWISH, LORDIS and RASMUS sale numbers to look pale. He is a unikum (?) in a buisness where celebrities egos got so blown up that they lose their self on the way. - "You should never burn your bridges." Ville says. "I think that one of the main reasons why we keep on going is because there are people that have the energy to travel around, likes HIM and the feeling that shines through and then they got interested of Finland because of the band. When people are this well mannered and kind you too get kind if any of them should be a leech and sit down at our table without asking it would be a different thing. For some reason we seem to attract really kind and well behaved fans. It?s cool and I am still speachless. There are many tales about fans of the Rasmus and maybe Nightwish that are really psycotic people."
Though having an aura of always being accessible and get that spread across the word through reportage like this one Ville has became some kind of common-place-things the fans knows that they will not get snapped at by their idol. - Can you shout at people?! - "Yeah I can be a real asshole yes I have no problem with that it is something I have noticed the last 3 years. But I am thick skinned in these situations I don't get angry that easily. Of course I can ask someone to go to hell if I sit and have a beer with my parents that is a private sphere and has nothing at all to do with my profession."
To avoid getting into the worse HIM chaos at Helsinki's legendary rock club Lost and Found, we later go to Inferno, a newly opened hard rock club almost next door to Lost and Found. We have got the company of CATHEDRAL and after a few trays of shots the singer Lee Dorian says that he has never had sex with Ville but that he holds him very dear. Around 1998 we played in Helsinki and 69 Eyes was making a video for one of their songs Lee Doran tells us, the singer of 69 Eyes Jyrki asked me if i wanted to join it and I accepted. He (Jyrki) pointed at a guy and said "That is Finlands greatest rockstar" It was a guy that stood against a wall with his arms crossed and looked really nervous. When we later on travelled around in a van in Germany we saw pictures of Ville on a lampost everywhere it must have been for "Razorblade Romance" and I said that is the guy we met in Helsinki what is all this about?! I had no idea of who he was. For 6 years ago they met at Crobar in London and 2 years later the friendship got deeper through common friends - Lee Dorian?s best friend Russel Haswell is a visual multi-artist that works with everything from japanese noiseartist MERZBOW to APHEX TWIN and HIM original keyboard player Antto Melasniemi shared an apartment in London.
- Ville and I get drunk together and can sit and talk for hours. In such situations you usually only talk nonsense but Ville is some kind of deeper thinker Lee means. It sounds pretty dull to say "I know Ville we talk about politics all night long" it sounds idiotic like it really meant something but in his case it really has, that is the point because he really is a good listener. - A couple of times I have talked about my opinion regarding animals rights I am 38 years old now I am not 21 any more. Earlier I was more extreme and went out and fought for it I was a vegan for 15 years and the last 10 years I have been a vegetarian I try to be a vegan again. I have explained all this to Ville and he has listened I did not expect him to be that inspired of what I had to say that the next time we meet he should say "now I am a vegetarian" for me that is one of the most fantastic things that could have happend. Ville himself says that it is his mom and two band mates in HIM - bass player Mige Amour and keyeboard player Emerson Burton that he has had as veganideal. There are no superethic reasons why I became a vegetarian he explains I know people that hunt and take care of the animal that is something entirely different from when you see tv-documentary where you see dead cows lie on the floor in the butchers house. It feels wrong for me I don?t know why. He finishes up on typical Ville Valo manner - Vegetarian food it also much more easy to melt than meat so there are more room over in the stomach for beer.
The night ends in at Inferno Ville has an after party at his hotel room and in the morning the minibar is empty what had happend and what was said, only the gods know, only the drunken pictures on my camera (some can be seen on www.closeupmagazine.net) things got pretty wild. Like Ville says when we meet later on in the afternoon. "I don't remember that much more than I had damn fun the whole night and that seldom happends when I drink beer during that long a time, it usually get troublesome in the end."
The fun has only started in Helsinki soon I, Ville and Alexaner Mailas from English Metal Hammer sit in a bed and drink beer - of course with ice in it! This strange way of drinking beer Ville was introduced to me at this very place 4 years ago. Ville tells some funny things like HIM after reaching an agreement with the artist that owns the right to the name HIM in the US and that they have sworn never to play jazz. And that he wants to build his own Esperanto club with friends then they could communicate with this international plan language without many people understanding what they said. Perfect for someone that personal life has got that much attention and is talked about in several forums and blogs all over ther net.
Helldone is Ville Valo's own festival that he arranges together with Tavastias owner and HIM?s finish booking agent Tina Vourinen. During the first half on the 90s the new years eve concert was the most prestige a band could get. Everyone was there and it was like one big rock party. When we got the chance we went and it was brilliant and we got to come back! With exception of 1998 when we played at a fair ground Prater Park in Vienna, but we have played here every new years eve since that.
Though establishment and care for this tradition the concert has become the big thing to talk about amoung the HIM fans and the number of visitors from far away has increased that much that the finns risk to soon be in minority at their own festival. Suddenly people from Japan and South America start to show up - people that have travelled from far away to see us, for their sake we thought we should make the festival bigger and longer. Last year it became a 3 day festival with finnish bands like the 69 Eyes. This year we wanted to do soemthing different, we had toured with CATHEDRAL and ANATHEMA and I like them sharp and we played with KATATONIA of whom I am a big fan of I thought it would be fun to have one finnish and one foreign band as a drawing card each night. I don't know if there is any similar festival in the world that takes place at this time at the year but I am proud of what we have created and for me it is absolutly not about making more money! It is so cool to see people of all kinds in the same room and hopefully they make new friends and hang out together a couple of days in a country they would never visit this time at the year.
When the tickes were released the 28 of september, new years eve sold out in a couple of minutes and the 3 day plates shortly after. It is not stange at all with HIM as main attraction you could easily add a zero to the 700 seats that are for sale. The opening night was not totally full and after the finish band DIABLO's gig the young gothvampyres attention was on the backstage door. An ocean of camera light and pocket cameras raises in the air as soon as anyone in HIM or around the band are seen. When drummer Gas Lipstick and I stand at the back and try to discuss the next mornings interview the situation gets out of hand and it takes forever to move those few meters to the backstage area. Everyone pulls in him.
- I remember when "Join Me" exploded and we became big it was a little strange in the beginning Gas says. I was a little scared and thought "what the fuck is this" back then I was not used to it like I am now. It takes one second to write an autograph and it is fun for the fans and it is those people that pay my bills and without the fans HIM would not exist so you have to take the time and talk to them. But at new years eve it is so much bigger and is is only really devoted fans here I have meet people from Australie, Chile. US, Canada... For some of them it has taken a whole day to get fly here so I understand that they want to talk some and get an autograph then it is ok but sometimes you just can't do it nobody is happy every day and if you have a bad day you don?t want to talk to anyone but you can?t be mean to anyone so it is hard sometimes. But it is part of being a musician and you have to take it. Just before CATHEDRAL?s gig Ville starts to move towards the the concert room to stand in the crowd it is of course not possible and would lead to trouble but it is refreshing and almost touching to see what a naive attitude he has towards his own star statue. He does not take the word naive in his mouth - what does it say about a band when in this case Gas stands in the crowd and gets his picture taken and Mige loses his voice because he stood in the front row during the CATHEDRAL gig and sang along. It is seldom you see a group do that and for me it is a collective celebraition. I was close to the toilets and the beer and it was becouse of that I stood in the back.
CATHEDRAL was amazing I was shocked! At 02 we ride on to Inferno but rumour that Ville hangs here has reached the fans and when we arrive the place is packed with expectant fans with only one thing on their mind. It does not take long before Ville makes his excuses and sneaks away that he chooses to go away to party without disturbance only shows that he is an ordinary man.
Early on new years day evening Ville looks totally ruined when we meet for a talk and a couple of beers. Ville was the last one to leave the after party and then went to another after party he has only got 20 minutes of sleep to recover and it is a miracle that he does not fall asleap during our conversation. He may talk slower and the concentration fails sometimes but the last thing that leaves Ville Valo is his sense of humor. You may easily think that he plays an act on official gatherings and yes he arms some of his witted comments but only with some marginal.
Even if there are melancholic traits of character - he is after all from Finland - Villes whole personally permeates by an disarming poisonous ironic. He often makes fun of himself and his profession. Like when we discuss the preasure that many put on themselves for the new year and therefore can?t avoid getting disappointed. - Before this major fest people have so high expectations like "we have to have fun and make sure everything is perfect" when you think like that you will always get trouble for yourself that is why we do these really bad gigs on new years eve! Ville smiles and continues - it is awesome and beyond our control. Can you make connection with this and a bands expectations before a concert?! That you build high expectations before big and important concerts and that they never can live up to this though minor gigs like never comes with any pressure can give bigger satisfaction? I and Mige have dicussed this, it is about taking stuff like they come and don?t have any kind of expectations because technical problems can happen and your jeans can rip in the crotch and you don?t feel that comfortable showing your pink underwear to everbody. It is a tremendous important thing becuse you never know what will happen and it does not suck belive me. If we take Robbie Willimas for an example he is an artist that makes a show, and honestly I dont have a clue how you do semething like that. We act on instinct, I see a face in the crowd and that gives me a vibe that takes me further, it is the beauty of what we do. I don't think that we are such a good live band but some of the classic bands were not that good live either. When I ask Ville for an example he first hesitates he does not want to compare HIM with others but changes his mind and developes his discussion. If you think BLACK SABBATH and even LED ZEPPELIN went on instinct it was always a risk and occasionally you destroy everything, sometimes you are good and then maybe one out of ten times you are totally fucking brilliant. Its much more exciting than to always give the same show. - This attitude inspires my lyric writing, Helldone and our whole attitude: go on instinct and have fun! We have made a 3 day long new years festival with bands we love and our bass player could not deliver his chorus song because he lost his voice when he sang at the CATHEDRAL concert. I think that is pretty cool.
- And you forget the lyrics from time to time. - I always do that one or two times during a concert, it is so much to keep track of. David Lee Roth was the same. I get nervous, anxious, and stressed, there are many thoughts that fly around in my head. Many musicians that strike with accidents on stage got pissed and got crazy afterwards and you are not like that Ville? - Name one perfect artist. I have never seen any perfect concert you always manage to screw things up that is life that is why you play in an band it is rock and roll thats what its all about. Let?s say that 99 percent of every rock group has forgotten what rock?n?roll is all about: the unpredictable, the freedom, the excitement and some kind of dangerous whatever it may be it is important I think. You have to be human at least when you work with this kind of music hopefully people appreciate it I don?t know if they do or don?t. If they have a problem with it then they can...go to hell! Another broad smile. The audience contributes to the concert as much as the band through how they react and how the feelings are in the venue. If HIM did a theatre show then everything should be made and coordinated it should be like acting in a porn movie I have nothing against porno but I prefer to make love.
During 2006 the singer bought a house. He is now the owner of an ancient lineage building in Helsinki that Lee Dorian has named "The tower of silence". It is a haunted tower from 1845 with four floors and a basement. It is kinky, sexy and very suitable for what I do. I am overjoyed with finally not having any neighbours to violate, Ville grins. He is talking about the thing that happend on the 6 February last year when he got on the wrong side of the law drunk and upset because the neighbours had talked shit about him he kicked on their door and when they opend he deliverd some bets agains the face and threatened the neighbour to his life, police were called to the place, cuffed the musician, and he was taken into custody. After reaching an agreement both parts can?t talk about what happend in public. - The only thing I can say about it now, when some time has passed, is that I should not have done it the way I did but there was a reason why I acted like I did, I don?t regret it and I had never before gone to jail so it was an experience. To sleep on a mattress in a cell was very nihilistic.
Ville asks almoust as manny questions to me as I do to him. He snorts at artists that just put on the autopilot during conversations with media (and it happends to be the most of them) becouse this is a behaviour that shows defecient respect for other people. Ville wants a conversation, a sharing of thoughts and reflections rather than getting into a the same kind of interview situation. How was 2006 Ville asks and gets a long reply from me before he takes the word and says - I must say that 2006 has been the worst year in my life we have worked hard, done good on concerts and are the first finnish group ever to get a gold record in the US for Dark Light. In that way it was a very good year but above that I have been a nervous wreck the whole year. Now I feel good though, well because I feel like the Duracell bunny and I just want to rush away and do the next album.
- In what way was 2006 so though? - Some friends got really sick, some friends parents passed away, there was much gloom and doom around me, a lot of things I am not used to, heavy stuff and when you have a rollercoaster relationship as I and Jonna have and then at the same time are on tour while shit happens here and there... then you ask yourself when is the hell is all this misery gonna end!? When I reflect for myself and talk to my friends I have said it is only to keep on fighting till the end of the year and then everything will be alright. I feel actually very good. Before 2007, last year was really tough, this year will be good I will have alot of time to make the new record and hang out with the guys in the band it feels exciting.
When we meet at the Lost and Found during the "Unholy Alliance" concert in November Ville has recently returned from his stay in the finish Lapland.- I do not have any relatives there and had only a couple of weeks off, he tells me. I thought i should fly there, sit and drink in a cottage in the woods, and write music. It ended with me haning out with the reindeer keepers getting really drunk and travelling in a helicopter. I must say that Lapland was more rock?n?roll for me than Los Angeles has ever been. It was absolutly senseless to drink vodka in a helicopter while you watched the mountains. I went to Pokka, the coldest place in Finland were the temperture was -51.5 degrees Celcius, to be in a village that only has about 30 people and two bars with stuffed animals, feels very much like Twin peaks.
- Did this effect the music? - I got some really needed solitude I did not actually write that many songs. It was more that I could work on the exsisting ideas I had because I had calm and quiet and there was a flame that bruned in me I knew that no one would call at 11 pm to tell met hat there was a bachelor party for one of my best friends. To describe the follow up to Dark Light, Ville uses a very unexpected reference that probably does not say anything to the fans, MY BLOODY VALENTINE's wounderful masterpice "Loveless" is a must in every record collection. - How shall I put it, I like the caoatic calmness, there is something very soothing about it. Its like being in the eye of the storm but also feeling calm. When you write songs its hard to talk about guitar sounds...
The producer for the next album is Tim Palmer, who mixed "Love Metal" and had the major responsebillity for "DarkLight". In march HIM enters the studio in Helsinki to start recording the next album. - What to expect on the next album? - It sounds dull, but it is true, everything bad that happend in 2006 made me dig deeper inside of myself and work with stuff, because of that it is a really really super personal thing that is on the next album. I try to hide it all on pseudo... and spice it up with some sense of humour. Villes favorite songs at the moment are "Bleed Well" and another one is "Passion's killing floor" more titles are almoust done but can be changed during the journey so those he wants to keep to himself. Behind one of them hides a lyric about sucide. - As always it is very purifying, he says about the subject in the end, the lyric is something positive. When you are really desperate what do you do? the only way for me to get rid of the agony is to write a song and if I thought writing another bad idiotic boring 80-style goth rock song can live yet another day then I have fulfilled my mission. Everybody has their own way of handling life, for us it is music.
by Bekah from the HIM PA Street Team